One of the best things about planning a family vacation to Hawaii is that there’s a staggering amount of awesome activities to experience. The islands of Hawaii are all about Ohana, or family, and that spirit of togetherness has so many ways to play itself out in Oahu. Whether you’ve got toddlers or teenagers, make memories that will last a lifetime for you and your kids with these Top 10 activities that go beyond the beach (you know, in case you get too much sand in your suit). With affordable and family friendly flights to Oahu operating daily on Island Air, you’ve got no excuse to miss out on these unforgettable experiences.
1. Wet ‘n Wild Hawaii
The winner of Honolulu Magazine’s Top Family Attractions, Wet ‘n Wild Hawaii is a mega water park that earns its bragging rights with over 25 unique attractions situated on 29 acres. The latest attraction, the Waimea Whirl, allows you to dip and drop through funnels and slides on a raft for two. Just remember the waterproof sunscreen!
2. Aulani Resort
The Aulani Resort is a Disney designed Hawaiian resort and spa in Ko Olina, Oahu. Voted No. 1 in Travel + Leisure‘s World’s Best Awards 2014 for Top Family Hotel in the U.S.A., Aulani celebrates Hawaiian culture, history and traditions. From winding pools and water slides to guided horseback tours to firepit storytelling sessions, the Aulani has activities for every age group. There’s even a club house for teenagers to play video games and watch movies. Among their many activities, be sure to check out the Starlit Hui, a nightly show featuring hula dancing, luau music, and Disney characters. Many activities are included in your stay at the Aulani resort, making this a great destination for parents looking for an easy, convenient all-inclusive vacation destination.
3. Kualoa Ranch
Kualoa Ranch is a can’t miss family spot with activities from ziplining to horseback riding to ATV riding excursions. Established in 1850, Kualoa is a 4,000-acre working cattle ranch, stretching from the steep mountain cliffs to the sparkling sea. Located on the northeastern side of Oahu in the Hawaiian countryside, it is just 22 miles from Honolulu. The ranch terrain varies from dense rainforest to broad open valleys and from beautiful white sand beaches to verdant cliff faces. It may look familiar to you from popular movies including Jurassic Park, which was filmed here. Movie buffs can even take a guided tour by school bus through the ranch to check out several of Hawaii’s most memorable filming locations– including the grounds where Jurassic Park, Lost and Hawaii 5-0 were filmed. Those seeking something more active should check out the horseback riding and zipline excursions.
4. Dole Plantation
Originally a fruit stand circa 1950, the Dole Plantation has since grown into one of the biggest tourirst destinations in Oahu, and the only working pineapple plantation in Hawaii. Take a tour to learn how entrepreneur James Dole struck it rich on introducing the world to the little known fruit of pineapple in the early 1900s. When he introduced canned pineapples to the market for the first time, demand skyrocketed and operations eventually spread to Lanai. This is the original location of the pineapple craze, though, and you can get lost in the world’s largest maze—shaped like a pineapple, of course.
5. Waikiki Aquarium
Opened since 1904, the Waikiki Aquarium is the second-oldest in the country. Recently the aquarium Aquarium has undergone a program of gradual renewal, renovation and replacement, with a new mission statement, a renovated and electronic classroom, many new and renovated exhibits, an elegant new jellyfish gallery, and – most recently — a Northwestern Hawaiian Islands exhibit. Kids can Meet the Monk Seals; wade into the ocean to search for snoozing fish and nocturnal crabs, lobsters, eels and octopuses during Exploring the Reef at Night. The aquarium is a great option for days when you’ve gotten too much sun.
6. Honolulu Zoo
Located between Diamond Head and Waikiki, the Honolulu Zoo is a failsafe hit with the underage crowd. From lemurs to meerkats, hippos to warthogs, there’s an impressive array of species at the Honolulu Zoo. They’ve also got a wide assortment of birds and reptile species worth checking out, in addition to their tropical gardens rife with Birds of Paradise. The Honolulu Zoo has a rich history too: it’s the only zoo in the United States that originated in a King’s grant of royal lands to the people. In 1876, King David Kalakaua, Monarch of Hawai‘i, made lands of the Leahi Crown Holdings available, “to the people of Hawai‘i.” Over time the animal collection grew into a thriving 300 acre zoo that attracts visiting families year round.
7. Dolphin Quest
Swimming with dolphins is truly an experience you’ll never forget, and there’s no better place to do it than Dolphin Quest, a secluded lagoon at the Kahala Hotel and Resort that offers options from an hour long dolphin adventure to a full “trainer for a day.” Along with having an unforgettable time, you’ll be supporting a good cause: Dolphin Quest is dedicated to ocean conservation efforts including re-releasing newly hatched endangered sea turtles safely into the wild.
8. Byodo-In Temple
The Byodo-In Temple is a memorial park featuring a replica of an ancient Japanese temple, peacocks roaming the grounds, and ponds full of Koi fish. Kids can also take in the 9 foot carved Buddha, ring a giant bell, and explore a small bamboo forest. While this might not be the best spot for toddlers, older kids and adults will find serenity and beauty at this iconic temple, which is often used in movies to depict Japan. Admission is a steal at just $3 per adult and $1 for kids.
9. Pacific Aviation Museum
You’ve probably already got Pearl Harbor on your itinerary, but be sure to check out the Pacific Aviation Museum for another fun and educational family outing. Filled with exhibits and airplanes used in World War II, this is a museum that brings history to life. Visitors can operate a simulated American or Japanese fighter and take a lunch break at a period-decorated cafe.
10. Germaine’s Luau
No trip to Hawaii would be complete without an authentic luau experience, and the setup at Germaine’s Luau is perfect for bringing the kids. At the outdoor seating area, grab a picnic table and dig into a Mai Tai and a buffet plate featuring some of the island’s famous Kalua pork while watching the sunset and the show. The performance opens with Hula dancing and traditional music. Kid friendly highlights include a dramatic Samoan fire-knife dance and a Maori dance with glowing “poi balls.” There’s plenty of chances for audience participation, too!